“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… Cleopatra (1934)

Next up for actress Claudette Colbert (June’s Star Of The Month), we have her 1934 film Cleopatra, also starring Warren William!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Genie With The Light Pink Fur (1966)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to become a genie, to hilarious effect! Of course, nobody seems to care about the possibility of the genie in the lamp, as everybody has a different use for the lamp! I’ll admit, the tea drinker being scared when the Panther pops out of the lamp is one of the funniest reactions, but all the trouble the Panther gets into here is guaranteed to make me laugh! Another one of the better shorts, in my opinion!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) is in a fight for control of Egypt with her brother, Ptolemy.  She and her philosopher/adviser Apollodorus (Irving Pichel) are kidnapped by Pothinos (Leonard Mudie) and left in the desert ahead of the arrival of Julius Caesar (Warren William).  However, Cleopatra returns secretly, and quickly gains an audience with Caesar.  She offers him the wealth of Egypt, as well as the treasures of India.  Caesar brings Cleopatra back with him to Rome, where he plans to divorce his wife Calpurnia (Gertrude Michael) and marry Cleopatra.  However, this idea doesn’t go over well with the Roman Senate, as they fear that will make him a king, and they plan to kill him.  Their plans are successful, and Cleopatra leaves to return to Egypt.  However, Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon) and Caesar’s nephew Octavian (Ian Keith) now share power as the rulers of Rome, and Antony vows to bring Cleopatra back in chains while he conquers Egypt.  Unfortunately for him, Cleopatra is wily enough that she seduces him easily.  Octavian makes use of this opportunity to brand Antony as a traitor, and vows to have him (and Cleopatra) killed.  With all his Roman troops and generals deserting him, will Antony and Cleopatra have a chance against the Roman army?

Earlier in 1934, Cecil B. DeMille made his second film (of three) with actress Claudette Colbert, Four Frightened People.  However, unlike their earlier film The Sign Of The Cross, that film was a flop.  That prompted Paramount Studios head Adolph Zukor to push DeMille to do another historical epic in a similar fashion to The Sign Of The Cross. Of course, part of that earlier film’s appeal was the pre-Code elements, and, with the Hays Code being implemented in 1934, that made that harder to do. Still, Cecil B. DeMille still tried to flaunt the restrictions while he could, to great effect. The movie was popular at the box office, and garnered five Oscar nominations (and one win, for Best Cinematography).

It wasn’t quite an easy film for leading lady Claudette Colbert, though. She struggled with health issues, as she had contracted appendicitis while making her previous film Four Frightened People, which made it harder for her to rehearse for Cleopatra. And, just as bad, her fear of snakes resulted in DeMille delaying her scene with a snake as long as he could. Using psychology, he brought in a big boa constrictor, and, when she asked him not to use that, he offered up a small garden snake instead (which she was happier with). Regardless of her issues, she gives a great performance here, still against type, as she seduces two Roman men. She proves quite wily, and in control most of the time, as she throws the men off their game.

I will freely admit, I hadn’t heard of this film before it was announced for release on Blu-ray back in 2018. I had known of the later 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor in the title role (but have never been interested in that one because of her). With actress Claudette Colbert in the title role for the 1934 film (and Cecil B. DeMille in the director’s seat), I was a lot more willing to try it. I wasn’t disappointed! This movie was a thrill from start to finish. I’ll admit, the opening was slightly confusing, starting with her kidnapping already in progress, but the rest of the film was great fun! I really feel like all the performances worked here (which made it better, in my mind, than the earlier The Sign Of The Cross), and I would also include the sets, the costumes and everything else in that statement! I enjoyed this movie, and I would certainly recommend it highly!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Cleopatra (1934)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios.  According to the Blu-ray case, it has been restored from 35mm original film elements, and I would say that this movie certainly looks wonderful!  The detail is superb, and there is very little print damage showing.  It looks (and sounds) even better than the previously reviewed The Sign Of The Cross, and for my money, is well worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Happened One Night (1934)Claudette ColbertThe Bride Comes Home (1935)

Upper World (1934) – Warren William

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